Health insurance in Portugal

Discover different health insurance options and Portugal's best private medical insurance providers for expats.


4 minute read
8 Apr 2024

Portugal's healthcare system attracts people from around the world seeking high-quality medical care in this beautiful Mediterranean country. Understanding health insurance in Portugal is crucial for internationals to have their medical expenses covered.

Which is why, in this article, we’ll give an overview of health insurance in Portugal and the best private medical insurance providers in Portugal.

Portugal’s healthcare system

Portugal provides universal healthcare coverage to all its citizens and legal residents through the National Health Service, meaning everyone has access to essential healthcare services, regardless of income or employment status. The healthcare system in Portugal consists of both public and private healthcare providers.

  • Public healthcare is provided by the national health service (Serviço Nacional de Saúde or SNS), funded through taxes and contributions from employees and employers. It provides almost free of charge medical services for all Portugal’s residents and citizens.

  • Private healthcare is an alternative healthcare option for expats in Portugal. If you stay for less than 90 days, you don't qualify for the SNS and must get private health insurance. Some expats also choose private insurance to have broader coverage, even when qualified for public healthcare.

Is having public health insurance in Portugal mandatory?

Whether you’re staying short–or long–term in Portugal, obtaining health insurance will be mandatory for your Portuguese visa unless you’re an EU/EEA or a Swiss citizen and have a European health insurance card (EHIC).

How does public health insurance work for expats?

Public health care in Portugal for expats works through the national health service. Portugal's healthcare system provides all legal residents access to public healthcare services.

In Portugal, public healthcare covers almost all medical procedures, including preventive care, diagnosis, and treatment for emergencies and non-urgent conditions. But, it excludes dental care and cosmetic surgery.

Here's how Portugal’s public healthcare for foreigners works:

When visiting Portugal for a short time, you can use your EHIC for up to 90 days for free. It lets you get essential medical treatment in Portugal, just like the locals. The EHIC covers basic healthcare and emergency services. Remember to get your EHIC from your home country's healthcare authority before you travel to Portugal.

When living and working in Portugal, you have the same healthcare rights as Portuguese people. To get public health insurance, you need to become a legal resident by registering and getting a residence certificate or card.

If you retired or receive specific social security benefits from your home country, you might qualify for the S1 form. This form lets you access public healthcare in Portugal, and your home country's healthcare system will cover your medical costs. Before moving to Portugal, get the S1 form from your home country's social security institution.

Non-residents and visitors from outside the EU/EEA or Switzerland must buy private health insurance for medical coverage in Portugal.

How to apply for public health insurance as an expat in Portugal?

Here’re the general steps to apply for public health insurance as an expat in Portugal:

  1. Obtain a Residence Permit.
  • To use public healthcare, you need to register with your local council, known as (junta de freguesia).
  1. Register at the local health center (Centro de Saúde).
  • Once you obtain proof of address from your local council, take it along with your residence card to your local healthcare center for registration.
  1. Upon successful registration at your health center, you will receive a Portuguese healthcare number, known as (numero de utente). This number will be used whenever you access public healthcare services.

Cost of public health insurance for expats in Portugal

Public health insurance through the national health service is generally free for residents and citizens in Portugal, covering essential healthcare, preventive care, and treatment for emergencies and non-urgent conditions.

Even though most medical care is free, you’ll still need to pay a small fee when receiving medical care at a public hospital. These fees are usually around €5–€20. This extra payment is required for everyone except pregnant women, children under 18, blood donors, and unemployed individuals.

Private healthcare system in Portugal

The private healthcare system in Portugal is well-developed and offers medical services provided by private hospitals, clinics, and healthcare practitioners.

Here’re some key features of private health insurance in Portugal:

  1. Private healthcare facilities in major cities and towns across Portugal offer various medical services, including specialized care, diagnostics, surgery, and dental treatments.

  2. Private healthcare often has shorter wait times for consultations and medical procedures than the public system.

  3. Many private healthcare providers in Portugal have English-speaking medical staff and administrative personnel.

  4. Private health insurance plans in Portugal offer comprehensive coverage, including dental care, which isn’t part of the public healthcare coverage.

  5. While private healthcare offers more convenience and shorter waiting times, it comes with higher costs.

Best private health insurance in Portugal

Getting health insurance can be daunting, especially if it's your first time. A typical starting point for many people in Portugal is their bank, which often provides discounted health insurance products.

If you decide to open a bank account at one of the banks in Portugal, such as Millennium BCP or Banco Santander Totta, you’ll get a special offer for your private health insurance subscription. While this might seem the most straightforward option, it's important to consider other options to find the right private health insurance.

You can easily find private health insurance in Portugal from international and local companies. The cost of private insurance depends on how much coverage you want. If you plan to travel across the EU during your stay in Portugal, getting a global health insurance provider will benefit you most.

Some of the biggest private health insurance companies in Portugal are:

Cost of private health insurance in Portugal

Private healthcare is generally more affordable in Portugal than in many other countries. For an appointment, expect to pay around €40–€50. However, some doctors, especially specialists like dermatologists, may charge higher fees, usually around €100.

By getting private health insurance, you can have your medical expenses covered. The cost of private health insurance in Portugal varies based on factors such as age and medical condition. You can expect to pay somewhere between €40–€100 per month for private health insurance in Portugal.

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